Seatrec, Northrop Grumman Receive DARPA Award for Developing Deep Sea Robots That Can Study Climate Change and Support Blue Economy

By: WebWire

Seatrec, a renewable energy company that harvests energy from temperature differences in the environment, announced today that it has been awarded a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). As part of the grant, Seatrec has assembled a multi-disciplinary team of scientists and engineers and subcontracted Northrop Grumman to support the development of a float that can dive to 1000 meters at a speed of 1 meter per second, a factor of 10 faster than the current state-of-the-art.

Dr. Yi Chao, Founder and CEO of Seatrec, is the Principal Investigator on the grant and built the company's technology he started at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“Today's buoyancy engines are too small to support such a fast profiling speed. If we increase the size of the buoyancy engine and add a propeller, the required 1 m/s speed can be achieved, however, a significantly larger battery would be necessary in order to maintain long endurance. We're excited to partner with Professor Doug Hart from MIT to explore the use of aluminum fuel, when mixed with water, to create the extra buoyancy required to achieve a 10x increase of the profiling speed,” said Chao.

“Aluminum, long used as a solid rocket propellant, is among the most energy-dense materials known but has found little use in other applications due to difficulties in harnessing its power. My group at MIT has developed a method to safely create a liquid slurry that can be reacted with water on contact releasing hydrogen gas and heat. In this project, the hydrogen gas will be used to generate positive buoyancy to achieve an order of magnitude increase in profiling speed,” said Hart.

“Ocean data needs a sea change to help navigate the warming world,” stated in a recent article in Nature, “The ocean covers about 70 percent of Earth's surface, regulates the climate and it's home to countless species of fish, a major source of protein for more than one billion people. It is now under threat from climate change, overfishing and pollution.” This technological advancement will certainly accelerate the evolution of ocean observation and monitoring.

“There are simply no other energy harvesting solutions available like Seatrec. The synergy of these innovative technologies and our experience in developing military-grade solutions will result in a very promising offering to better observe our oceans,” said Brian Theobald, Chief Engineer for Northrop Grumman Undersea Systems.

About Seatrec
Seatrec designs and manufactures energy harvesting systems that generate electricity from naturally occurring temperature differences in ocean waters. This renewable energy can be used to power deep water oceanographic research equipment such as floats, gliders, and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs), resulting in the most scalable, cost-effective deep ocean data collection possible. Incorporated in 2016 by CEO, Dr. Yi Chao, Seatrec's technology originated at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, to provide clean power for remote off-grid locations. The company is headquartered in Monrovia, CA. Visit us at www.seatrec.com and @seatrecinc.

Media contact
Marta Bulaich
Head of Marketing
marta@seatrec.com
+1 415-816-1665

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